Capturing and leveraging information to provide faster yet more efficient freight service is only the start of what motor carriers can do with “Big Data,” according to a group of industry experts gathered together at the ALK 2016 Technology Summit in Philadelphia this week.
Mike Ball, CIO and vice president with TL carrier Werner Enterprises, Travis Rhyan, CEO and president of 10-4 Systems, and Kenneth Ehrman, CEO, president and chairman of I.D. Systems Inc., shared their thoughts about the ongoing “information explosion” within the trucking industry and what changes it might generate.
“From the shipper’s view, it’s no longer just about [freight] visibility; it’s about velocity,” explained I.D.’s Ehrman. “It’s about getting shipments from start to destination as quickly and safely as possible.”
The key thing about the wider data availability within the industry today, he said, is its enabling more “peer-to-peer” comparisons, which not only will help spark more efficiencies but cost savings for motor carriers too.
“You might have a three trailer to one truck ratio, but the fleet sown the street is working with a 1.5 to one ratio – so with data you can now benchmark yourself against the industry to see where you are good and where you are not,” Ehrman noted. And “getting good,” in terms of metrics such as leaner trailer-to-truck ratios, will translate into “real cost savings” for fleets, he stressed.
Yet to make data collection and analysis as efficient as possible means changing the process by which it’s gathered, emphasized Werner’s Ball – moving away from large one-size-fits-all legacy system designs to ones with more modular components.
“We are designed our systems as ‘small’ or as modular as possible, so we can create more interfaces to share data across all of our divisions – operations, maintenance, logistics, etc.,” he explained. “As data keeps growing and technology keeps changing, smaller modular systems help us adapt faster and stay interconnected.”
Quick adaptation is vital, noted 10-4’s Rhyan, because the amount of data being generated in trucking is only going to get “bigger and bigger” in his view.
“The industry really has never had this much information and also never really had to standardize it,” he said. “Now it must prioritize data based on what is the greatest need – and data prioritization should be at the heart of a carrier’s information strategy.”
But Werner’s Ball also stressed that adding technology is not at its heart just about “automating processes” in the trucking world. “It’s about using technology to make game-changing gains; it should make our job easier and more efficient.”
I.D.’s Ehrman added that if the “old guard” in trucking – drivers and others who remain leery of the rapid deployment of technologies within the industry – can see the value in terms of making their jobs easier and more efficient, then most will gladly start using it.
“The ideal scenario is that big data will be built into our daily lives but that we won’t know it’s there,” he stressed.